Search Engines: Information Galore

You're trying to find information on the Internet, so you head to a search engine like Google or Ask.com and type in your keywords, right? Nothing to worry about.

Think again. Take a close look at search engines and you'll find thousands of viruses, Trojan horses and Internet worms attached to millions of the sites, just waiting to wreck your computer, or worse. Search engines aren't "gatekeepers." They generally don't judge the merits of what's pulled up by their engines.

Don't believe me? Type in the keyword "screensaver" in a random search engine, give away your e-mail address and see how much spam you start receiving in hours. That's screensavers, don't even start trying to find stuff on iPod's and free music.

That's why you need to learn to be your own search engine gatekeeper. Here's how:


First, think before you head to any search result. Ask yourself some questions:

  • Do you know whether the information you find is reliable?
  • Does the site share your information?
  • Are the downloads safe?
  • Are there other annoyances like pop-ups?

Second, take advantage of some of the tools out there designed to protect you.

McAfee's Site Advisor is one of the many good free programs out there. We use it our-self and here's how it works: When you type the word "screensaver" in a search engine again, the site will display exactly which of your search results are bad, and which are good.

For instance, Site Advisor tells you that screensaver.com, will give you an average of 47 spammy e-mails per week. It tells you the site also contains one or more programs that are considered adware or spyware, has excessive pop-ups and also has links to 6 or 7 other deceitful sites.

Here are more good options:

  • ScanSafe offers a free tool called Scandoo that rates security treats while browsing.
  • StopBadWare.org is a non-profit organization that collects dodgy websites in a database and warns you when you hit one.

Surf safe! And if you want to know more about privacy and other web issues, check out our Online Section.